Two years ago, I asked a wise, older mother for her best parenting advice. I marveled at the way her grown children loved to talk with her and spend time with her. I marveled at how not one of them went through silent, rebellious years. I marveled at how open the children were about their own lives.
Her best advice? She told me to sit on the end of my daughter's bed every week and ask her if there's anything I've done to hurt her.
That's it. That's the simple question.
"Ask her if there's anything you need to apologize for and see what happens. Do this regularly."
The mother said that children close down when they're hurt.
They stop talking.
They don't want to be touched. They don't like to look at you.
The relationship suffers, and the hurt feelings just pile up until there's a huge wall between family members.
The wise mother says, "Parents often don't realize that they've hurt their children. To prevent a communication breakdown, simply ask if you've hurt them and seek their forgiveness."
In my mind, I'm thinking this: "Surely no. Me? Hurting my own daughter's heart? No. We're fine! All is well here."
But I promised to try it.
The first time I asked one daughter that question, she paused, looked up at me, and said, "Well, yes, actually. Remember this, this, this, and that? Remember when you said this and that and how you embarrassed me here and here?"
The list was long.
I apologized for each and every thing. I've been asking my daughters if I've hurt them in any way every few weeks, and each time, there's something I've done that that I didn't perceive. When I apologize and make it right, suddenly, we're talking, hugging, and gazing right into each other's eyes. We want to be together again.
Asking my daughters this question might be the best parenting advice I've received in a long time.
Don't you think this is a great question to ask friends and spouses, too?